By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention approved a budget Tuesday night which reduces the amount to be raised by taxes by $873,374 from the budget proposed by Belknap County Commissioners, with the bulk of that decrease coming from the use of an additional $605,000 from the county's fund balance to pay existing debt. They also made no further changes to funding for outside agencies.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) tried unsuccessfully to persuade the legislators to apply the additional $605,000 to pay for replacing the roof on the Belknap County Nursing Home rather than reducing taxes..
Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who two weeks ago persuaded the convention to increase the amount of the fund balance used to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes from $1.75 million to $2.38 million, said that the county still has $2 million in the fund balance and thinks it is an appropriate use of the fund balance to further reduce taxes.
But Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said that $2 million is not a good fund balance and said that he idea of maintaining a healthy fund balance is to be able to avoid spikes in taxes brought about by unforeseen circumstances.
Both DeVoy and Tilton pointed out that not using the fund balance for the roof makes it more than likely that a supplemental appropriation will be required later this year if the roof is to be replaced at the same time that a contractor is working on the roof of the community corrections center which will be built next to the existing county jail.
Work is supposed to start on that project in May and DeVoy has suggested that the roof could paid for with funds from the $8 million bond issue legislators approved last November for the new county facility. But both he and Tilton said there is no guarantee that those funds will be available.
The final budget approved by the convention calls for spending $35,116,837 with anticipated revenues of $22,153,397 and $12,963,400 to be raised by taxes.
Legislators, who last week held a public hearing on the budget at which extensive testimony was heard from supporters of outside agencies opposing cuts the convention had made to their budget requests, reaffirmed their support for the funding levels they had established before the hearing.
Last week they restored the UNH Cooperative Extension Service funding to the $152,217 sought by the commissioners. But last night in a series of votes which saw only Tilton, Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), Rep, Valerie Fraser (R-New Hampton) and Rep. Dave Russell (R-Gilmanton) supporting full funding, they stood by the cuts made to the Belknap County Economic Development Council which was cut from $75,000 to $60,000; Genesis Behavioral Health, cut from $34,200 to $30,000, the Community Action Program cut from $86,905 to $60,000 and the Belknap County Conservation District from $92,400 to $80,000.
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